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Foods your teeth love - and hate

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The secret to a beautiful smile and fewer visits to the dentist is a diet that's kind to your teeth. Here are the tooth heroes and villains you need to know about.

What you munch, crunch, chew and drink during the day can either harm your teeth or make them stronger. Find out how to tell the goodies from the baddies when it comes to a gleaming, healthy and strong set of pearly whites.

Heroes

High-fibre veggies

Foods such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage 'scrub' the surface of your teeth and get your saliva flowing, which neutralises acids that can eat away at enamel.

They also contain calcium and phosphates, which help to rebuild minerals that acids can strip away.

Crunchy, juicy veg like carrots, cucumber, celery and peppers also have a high water content that offsets sugars.

Dairy products

Cheese is packed with calcium, which helps replace minerals leached from the teeth and it also gets tooth-protecting saliva flowing.

Milk and yogurt are low in acid, high in calcium and provide phosphates, which restore and enhance the smoothness and lustre of teeth. Enriched milk also provides Vitamin D, which helps calcium work its magic.

Vitamin C-rich grub

If you lack vitamin C in your diet, it takes its toll on your gums and can make them bleed. Vitamin C also helps the body maintain and repair bones and teeth.

Eating oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, kiwis, sweet potatoes, carrots and peppers will up your dose. It's best to eat the fruits and vegetables whole, rather than in juices and smoothies, to get the benefit of their fibre.

Xylitol

It's used in sugar-free gum and it's another easy way to stimulate saliva, remove food particles from your mouth and scrub teeth clean.

Better still, this natural sweetener derived from woody plants works against the bacteria that cause tooth decay.

It's not just in gum - you can also buy it in health shops to use as a sugar alternative in baking.

Tea

Tea contains compounds called polyphenols that kill or suppress the bacteria that cause plaque, so they can't grow and produce the acid that attacks your teeth.

Black tea can stain enamel, however, so for maximum effect, try switching to super-healthy green tea.

Meat, fish and tofu

Meat, tofu and oily fish like salmon and mackerel all contain phosphorus, which protects tooth enamel. Combine that with vitamins A (which helps form and maintain the enamel), C and D and you get even more benefit for your mouth.

If you're vegetarian, you can replace the meat with leafy green vegetables, beans and whole grains.

Nuts

We all know they're a healthy desk drawer snacking staple, but they are also stuffed with vitamins and minerals that your teeth will love. Peanuts boast calcium and vitamin D, while almonds are high in calcium.

Walnuts contain a heady mix of fibre, iron, magnesium and folic acid, which helps repair the damaged cells in your gum tissue. They also pack in niacin, which helps prevent receding gums, and zinc, which fights against the growth of bacteria and plaque.

Top tip: Give your teeth an even bigger boost by using Oral-B Pro-Expert toothpaste, floss, mouthwash and electric toothbrushes every day - all of which will help keep your teeth strong alongside a healthy diet.

The villains

Fizzy drinks

We all know that soft drinks are a major cause of tooth decay, but diet drinks wreak havoc, too. Artificially sweetened drinks contain tooth-eroding phosphoric and citric acids. Sports drinks can be particularly acidic and sugary, while flavoured or vitamin waters can contain as much sugar as a chocolate bar.

Because you tend to sip a fizzy drink over a long period, the teeth are exposed to that acid for an extended time, causing even more damage. Alcoholic drinks that leave your mouth dry later at night are bad news too, because you need a flow of saliva to keep your teeth safe and protected.

Sticky and chewy foods

It's not just bags of chewy sweets and toffees - natural sweet foods like dried fruits often cause decay, because they get wedged between teeth and saliva can't wash them away. That means teeth are continually exposed to the sugar. The sugars in fruit get concentrated when they are dried out, and they also contain non-soluble cellulose fibre, which can trap sugars on and around teeth.

Starchy carbs

Think white bread, crisps, chips and al-dente pasta - all these foods can easily get lodged between teeth. While we think of them as savoury, the starches convert into sugar very quickly, so if they've taken up residence next to your tooth, it will be under attack until you brush it away.

Citrus fruits

Oranges, lemons, grapefruit and limes contain a citric acid so punchy it's often used in cleaning products. They're full of nutrients but they're best eaten as part of a meal, and you should rinse your mouth with water afterwards.

Although brushing your teeth immediately might seem like a good idea with all that sugar, when the enamel has been softened by the acid, brushing can do more harm than good. It's best to wait for half an hour to give your gnashers time to recover.

Pickles

Mixing vegetables with vinegar makes your teeth very unhappy because it creates a potent combination of acidic vinegar and sugar - a recipe for eroded enamel. If you love a pickle, make sure it's eaten alongside a meal containing low-acid foods to balance things out.

Coffee and red wine

Hello stains! The tannins in coffee wear down enamel and can stain your teeth a not-too-pleasant brown colour. Similarly, while a glass of red wine has plenty of health benefits, it can turn your teeth from glowing white to an unappealing purple. The acids in wine (white and rose too) also attack the surface of your teeth, letting any stains set in more easily.

Chewable vitamins

Whether it's a multivitamin or a big chewable vitamin C tablet, they often contain concentrated acids that hang about between teeth. But don't worry, you can still make sure you get a nutrient boost for healthy teeth by choosing vitamins in tablet form, such as Swisse multivitamins.

What foods are you trying to avoid or eat more of for the sake of your teeth? Let us know in the comments.

 

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